cover image On the Road to Kandahar: Travels Through Conflict in the Islamic World

On the Road to Kandahar: Travels Through Conflict in the Islamic World

Jason Burke, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (297pp) ISBN 978-0-312-36622-3

A veteran foreign correspondent, Burke takes his readers on a whistle-stop tour of modern Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, Algeria, Thailand and places in between. Burke, whose previous book, Al-Qaeda , incisively cut through some of the errant conventional wisdom about that terrorist organization, began his Mideastern journeys as a volunteer in the Kurdish peshmerga after the first Gulf War. Many of his escapades read like scenes cut from Full Metal Jacket —a fact he self-consciously acknowledges many times. Though Burke doesn't always have the strongest grasp on the intricacies of local politics and theologies—and freely admits it, unlike many commentators—his conversations with all kinds of ordinary people illuminate the struggles that define their existence and sometimes metastasize into intolerant ideologies. His conclusion is hopeful, if tinged with warning: "[D]espite the best efforts of men like bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and al-Zarqawi, despite the incompetent, corrupt, sclerotic dynastic rulers still clinging to power everywhere... the ordinary people of the Islamic world... whose voices were so often drowned out by shouting and gunfire... had not been won over by the radicals." Nonetheless, as Burke argues, the war in Iraq has clearly not helped matters. (May)